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* 82% of Québec’s population is francophone, but English is also commonly spoken, particularly in the province’s major cities such as Montréal where the percentage is 64%. For French-speaking people from elsewhere, the French spoken in Québec is often difficult to understand. But tourists should keep in mind that, in Québec, they’re the ones considered to have an accent! Books have been published on Québec expressions, and these may be worth consulting if you are planning to stay in Québec for any length of time.  
82% of Québec’s population is francophone, but English is also commonly spoken, particularly in the province’s major cities such as Montréal where the percentage is 64%. For French-speaking people from elsewhere, the French spoken in Québec is often difficult to understand. But tourists should keep in mind that, in Québec, they’re the ones considered to have an accent! Books have been published on Québec expressions, and these may be worth consulting if you are planning to stay in Québec for any length of time. See [ Québec lexicon] (in French).
* [ Québec lexicon]  
Canada is officially bilingual, meaning that most federal government official documents, signs, and tourist information will be in both French and English. Staff at retail shops, restaurants and tourist attractions will often speak English, especially in Montreal. Smaller establishments, especially outside Montreal, may not offer services in English, but will do their best to accommodate travelers. About 8% of the province's residents speak English as a mother tongue, and an additional 31% consider that they can get by speaking it.  
Canada is officially bilingual, meaning that most federal government official documents, signs, and tourist information will be in both French and English. Staff at retail shops, restaurants and tourist attractions will often speak English, especially in Montreal. Smaller establishments, especially outside Montreal, may not offer services in English, but will do their best to accommodate travelers. About 8% of the province's residents speak English as a mother tongue, and an additional 31% consider that they can get by speaking it.  

Revision as of 04:52, 2 September 2007

Quick Facts
Capital Quebec City
Government British parliamentary system
Area 1,542,056 km²(595,234 sq. mi.)
Population 7,509,928 inhabitants (est. January 2004)
Language french
Time Zone UTC -5 (except the eastern part of the North Shore, UTC -4)

Quebec [1] (French: Québec;) is a province of Canada, the largest in size and second to Ontario in population. Predominantly French-speaking (French being the official language), Quebec is located in the east of Canada and is situated east of Ontario; to the west of Newfoundland and Labrador, New Brunswick, Nova Scotia and Prince Edward Island; finally, to the south of the territory of Nunavut. The capital of Quebec is Quebec City, its largest city Montreal.

Québec is unique among tourist destinations. Its French heritage sets the province apart, and it is one of the only areas in North America to have preserved its Francophone culture. Its European feel and its history, culture and warmth have made Québec a favourite tourist destination both nationally and internationally.


Québec is made up of 21 separate tourist regions:


Château Frontenac in Québec city, Québec

The three largest cities in Québec are Montréal, Québec City and Gatineau.

Other destinations


  • Québec was a French colony for more than two centuries, between the arrival of Jacques Cartier in 1534 and Governor Vaudreuil’s capitulation to the English in 1760.
  • It is the only province in Canada where French is the official language, and it is one of the rare former French colonies where French is still spoken.
  • Québec is Canada’s second most populous province. It has 7 million inhabitants, including 5.6 million (approx. 80%) whose mother tongue is French.
  • French is the mother tongue of 82% of Quebecers, and English is the mother tongue of 10% of the population. The remaining 8% is divided among some 30 languages such as, in order of importance, Italian, Spanish, Arabic, Chinese and Greek.5 However, it is very easy to travel in Québec speaking only English. In fact, over 40% of the population is bilingual. In major cities like Montréal, this percentage is as high as 64%, and 16% of the population speaks a third language.
  • The majority of the population lives in the vicinity of the St. Lawrence River, in the southern portion of the province. The population is largely urbanized; between 50 and 60% of Quebecers live in the metropolitan area of Montréal.


A fall landscape in Québec

There are four distinct seasons in Québec—spring, summer, fall and winter—offering a changing landscape and variety of activities.

  • Summer (end of June to end of September): Summers in Québec are hot, and the season offers many festivals and outdoor activities.
  • Fall (end of September to end of December): The leaves change colour in Québec, creating breathtakingly colourful landscapes
  • Winter (end of December to end of March): Québec’s snowfall makes skiing, snowboarding, tobogganing, snowmobiling and dogsledding possible.
  • Spring (end of March to end of June): Nature awakens and Québec’s sugar shacks open their doors.


82% of Québec’s population is francophone, but English is also commonly spoken, particularly in the province’s major cities such as Montréal where the percentage is 64%. For French-speaking people from elsewhere, the French spoken in Québec is often difficult to understand. But tourists should keep in mind that, in Québec, they’re the ones considered to have an accent! Books have been published on Québec expressions, and these may be worth consulting if you are planning to stay in Québec for any length of time. See Québec lexicon (in French).

Canada is officially bilingual, meaning that most federal government official documents, signs, and tourist information will be in both French and English. Staff at retail shops, restaurants and tourist attractions will often speak English, especially in Montreal. Smaller establishments, especially outside Montreal, may not offer services in English, but will do their best to accommodate travelers. About 8% of the province's residents speak English as a mother tongue, and an additional 31% consider that they can get by speaking it.

The official language of Quebec, however, is French. Provincial government signs (highway signs, government buildings, hospitals, etc.) generally post in French only. Tourist information is offered in English and other languages. The visibility of English and other languages is restricted by law except in English-speaking cultural venues (theatres, cinemas, bookstores), and most businesses will not post in English except in tourist areas and localities with a large English-speaking population. This issue is a very sensitive subject politically, particularly in Montreal. If you cannot read a sign in a store or restaurant, most sales people will be sympathetic and help you find your way. Most restaurants in tourist areas will supply English menus if asked.

Isolated from France for centuries, and unaffected by that country's 19th-century language standardization, Quebec has developed its own "accent" of French. The continental variety -- called "international French" or français international here -- is well-understood, and something closely approximating it is spoken by broadcasters and many businesspeople. While Quebecers understand European French, European tourists may feel lost until they grow accustomed to the local accent(s).

There are a few main differences between Quebecois French and continental French-from-France. One is that in Quebec it's relatively common to tutoyer (use the familiar tu second-person pronoun instead of vous when saying you) for all, regardless of age or status (though there are common exceptions to this in the workplace and the classroom). Doubling the pronoun is also extremely common in everyday speech, especially when asking for something (T'aurais-tu du feu ? instead of Est-ce que tu aurais du feu). Finally, there are a number of vocabulary words that differ, particularly in very informal contexts (for example, un char for a car, rather than une voiture), and some common expressions (C'est beau for "OK" or "fine"). Overall, however, pronunciation marks the most significant difference between Quebec and European French.

Probably the most puzzling difference in Quebec's French is that one will often sacrer (blaspheme) rather than using scatological or sexual curse words. Terms like baptême (baptism) or viarge (deformation of vierge, i.e. virgin) have become slangy and taboo over the centuries in this once fervently Catholic culture. Hostie de tabarnac! ("communion wafer of the tabernacle!") or just tabarnak! is one of the most obscene things to say, and more polite versions like tabarnouche or tabarniche are equivalent to "darn" or "fudge!"

Although sacre may seem funny, be assured that Quebeckers, particularly the older generation, do take it seriously. Don't sacre any time you don't really mean it! But be sure that younger Quebeckers may be fond of teaching you a little sacrage lesson if you ask them.

English-speaking Quebeckers are generally bilingual and reside mostly in the Montreal area, where 25% of the population speaks English at home. Aside from the occasional borrowing of local French terms (e.g. 'SAQ' for 'liquor store'), their English differs little from standard Canadian English, including the occasional "eh" at the end of the sentence; accents are influenced heavily by ethnicity, with distinct Irish, Italian, Jewish, and Greek inflections heard in Montreal neighborhoods. Conversations between anglophones and francophones often slip unconsciously between English and French as a mutual show of respect. This can be confusing if you're not bilingual, and a look of puzzlement will generally signal a switch back to a language everyone can understand. Although English-speakers will usually greet strangers in French, it is considered pretentious and overzealous for a native English-speaker to continue a conversation in French with other English speakers. Local English-speakers may also refer to street names by their English names as oppose to posted French names (for example, Mountain street for rue de la Montagne, Pine avenue for avenue des Pins).

See also: French phrasebook

Get in

By Plane There are flights to Québec from major cities in North America, Europe and Asia. Montréal is a 70-minute flight from New York and is less than 6 hours and 45 minutes by air from London or Paris.

Montréal has two international airports: Pierre Elliott Trudeau International Airport, located on the island, about 30 minutes from downtown, and Mirabel airport, located on the North Shore, 40 minutes from downtown. Mirabel is no longer in use.

Air Canada serves many U.S. and European cities with departures from Montréal. There are daily flights to Paris, London and Frankfurt. Some flights also serve Québec City (flights to Paris every Saturday).

Air France operates three daily flights between Paris and Montréal during the summer and two flights during the winter.

Low-cost flights (charters) are available at Pierre Elliott Trudeau International Airport.

You can also fly directly to Québec City. It’s often simply a matter of getting information from a travel agency or carrier. While Paris is the only European city linked with Québec City, there are still several direct connections available with other North American cities.

By boat

The days when immigrants arrived in Québec by boat are long over, but visitors with a bit of time can enjoy any one of the many cruises available along the St. Lawrence River.

By train

Montréal has an efficient link with Toronto and New York, and train travel is very comfortable.

By car

From Toronto, there is only one option: highway 401 (six hours by car). From the United States, visitors can arrive from New York City (six hours by car), or from Vermont.

Other informations

From neighboring Ontario there is transportation service into Québec by both railroad and motorcoach. Via Rail Canada operates several trains daily from both Toronto, Ont. and Ottawa, Ont. into Montréal, Qué. Coach Canada operates frequent motorcoach service from Toronto, Ont. into Montréal, Qué. Voyageur, an affiliate of Greyhound Canada, operates hourly motorcoach service from Ottawa, Ont. into Montréal, Qué. There is also limited transportation service from Ottawa, Ont. into Grand-Remous, Que. via Voyageur, as well as from North Bay, Ont. into Rouyn-Noranda, Qué. via Autobus Maheux.

From the Maritimes there is transportation service into Québec by railroad, motorcoach, and ferry. Via Rail Canada operates one train daily from Halifax, N.S. and Moncton, N.B. into Montréal, Qué. Tshiuetin Rail Transportation operates two trains weekly from western Labrador (Newfoundland) to Sept-Îles, Qué. and Schefferville, Qué. Acadian Lines operates two trips daily by motorcoach from Halifax, N.S. and Moncton, N.B. into Rivières-du-Loup, Qué., and then continuing onward to Québec, Qué. and Montréal, Qué. Orléans Express operates two trips daily by motorcoach from Campbellton, N.B. into Rimouski, Qué., and then continuing onward to Québec, Qué. and Montréal, Qué. C.T.M.A. operates a daily ferry daily during the summer (and less frequently at other times of the year) from Souris, P.E.I. to Cap-aux-Mueles, Qué. Labrador Marine operates up to three ferries daily (no service January through April) from St. Barbe, Nfld. to Blanc-Sablon, Qué.

Internationally, there is both railroad and motorcoach service from the United States to Montréal, Qué. Amtrak operates the "Adirondack" daily from New York, N.Y. Amtrak no longer operates a bus connection with the "Vermonter" in St. Albans, Vt. for travel between Montréal and Washington, but train travel between Montréal and Washington via New York is still possible (see the Adirondack timetable). Adirondack Trailways and Greyhound Lines operate frequent motorcoach service from New York, N.Y. Vermont Transit and Greyhound Lines operate frequent motorcoach service from Boston, Mass.

Get around

Québec has a vast road and air network that makes it easy to travel between cities. You can travel by car, bus, plane, train, bike or boat [2].

By plane

Using air transportation to travel between the different cities in Québec is not recommended. But air travel is indispensable for getting around northern Québec (except for the Baie-James region, which is served by a paved highway), because there are no highways or railways serving these remote areas.

By train

The railway network is used mainly for freight trains; it links Montréal, Québec City, the Gaspé Peninsula, Toronto, New York, and the Atlantic provinces, in Acadia. However, this transportation method is fairly slow because there are currently no TGVs in Canada. The bus is a sometimes better alternative given that there are more daily connections.

By bus

The main way to travel between cities is by bus. The bus network is very well developed, particularly for connections between Québec City-Montréal, Ottawa-Montréal and Toronto-Montréal.

By car

Renting a car and driving around Canada poses no particular problem, even in the cities. However, it is best to arrange the rental from Europe. Read the rental contract carefully, particularly the section on insurance. Often, you can rent a car in one city and return it in another without prohibitive costs.

Québec has a good network of toll-free highways connecting all the main cities and surrounding areas.

Driving in Québec—in the cities and on the highways—is much like driving in Paris. This means drivers have to be able to react quickly behind the wheel, and watch for other cars changing lanes and merging onto the highway from access ramps. Also, beware of people passing on the right, which is a common occurrence. Of note for French people: In Québec, the highway speed limit is 100 km/h.

The Québec highway code is similar to that of Europe. A couple of differences are that traffic lights are often located across the intersection, not at the side, and you are allowed to turn right at a red light except on the Island of Montréal or where otherwise indicated. At stop signs, every one advances in turn, based on the order in which the cars arrived at the stop sign. One final detail: horns are very seldom used.

By bike

Québec’s regions boast an impressive network of bicycle paths, totalling more than 3,400 km (2,111 mi). This means you can visit several regions by bicycle and find local accommodations near the bike paths (Route verte).

By boat

Numerous cruises are also available on the St. Lawrence River, one of the world’s biggest waterways [3].

With Allo Stop

For people travelling in small groups and wanting to keep their costs down (primarily students), Allo Stop is a great alternative to any of the transportation methods mentioned above. Allo Stop is a ride-sharing network serving most of Québec’s major cities. To access this service, simply register at one of the offices (registration costs $6). Then you can reserve your spot in a car belonging to someone who is travelling to the same destination as you—sometimes for up to half the price of the bus. The only inconvenience with this system is that it doesn’t serve every city, so some areas are not accessible using this method.

By motorcycle

Québec’s winding, scenic secondary roads are ideal for a motorcycle ride. However, in southern Québec, the best season for travelling by motorcycle is limited to between May and October. In remote areas, the nicest season is two months shorter than that, running from June to September. In the last few years, taking to Québec’s roads by motorcycle has become increasingly popular. The province boasts several motorcycle clubs [2], and visiting tourists can rent motorcycles.

Québec’s motorcyclists share a special fraternity and team spirit. If your motorcycle breaks down, you certainly won’t remain stranded on the roadside for long before another motorcyclist stops to help. So don’t be surprised to see other motorcyclists wave to you on the road or spontaneously engage in conversation at a rest stop.

Panoramic routes

Québec road maps [4]

By taking these routes you will discover a host of picturesque towns and villages bordering majestic rivers and dotting the vast expanses of forest. You will be treated to some magnificent panoramic views.

Here are a few of them:

  • Montréal-Québec City: This section of highway 138, also called the King’s Road, runs along the St. Lawrence River from Repentigny to Cap-Rouge, passing by some of the most delightful historic towns in Québec. A small section of this route, Avenue Royale, extends into the municipality of Beauport, east of Québec City, where you can see homes dating back to the French colonization.
  • Tour of the Gaspésie region[5]: Highway 132 loops around the Gaspé Peninsula. It’s best to start this tour from the southern part (Chaleur Bay[6]) and come back along the South Shore of the St. Lawrence River. The route features increasingly spectacular scenery including the famous Percé Rock[7].
  • Québec City-Sept-Îles: Highway 138 east crosses the Charlevoix [8], Manicouagan [9] and Duplessis [10] regions. This breathtaking route is winding and mountainous so be careful!
  • Trois-Rivières-La Tuque[11]: Highway 155 north runs along the Rivière Saint-Maurice, one of the most used waterways during log-driving times.
  • Eastern Townships[12]: From Granby to Sherbrooke, highway 10 provides attractive scenery through the north-west section of the Appalachians.

For those who enjoy winding their way along country roads, this region’s various wine routes are a must (Brome-Missisquoi, highway 104 and highway 202) [13]. To reach the eastern part of this region, i.e. Lac Mégantic, taking highway 108 starting in Magog is worth the trip.

  • Saguenay-Lac-Saint-Jean[14]: There are five lovely forested routes you can take to reach this region. Make sure your gas tank is full and beware of moose, which frequently cross the roads in this area!

Highway 155 north passes Trois-Rivières and La Tuque and takes you directly to Lac-Saint-Jean, providing a magnificent view!

From Québec City, highway 175 north crosses the Parc national de la Jacques-Cartier [15] and the renowned Réserve faunique des Laurentides [16]. This sinuous, hilly forested route offers a choice of two destinations at the fork of highway 169 north: Chicoutimi or Hébertville.

From Baie-Saint-Paul, the 381 north takes you to the town of La Baie by way of the Parc national des Grands-Jardins [17] and Lac Ha!Ha! This lesser known route takes you through one of Québec’s less travelled wilderness regions.

From Saint-Siméon, highway 170 north joins the western shore of the Saguenay Fjord [18] and takes you along a winding wooded route to the town of La Baie.

From Tadoussac, highway 172 north runs alongside the Saguenay Fjord all the way to Chicoutimi. However, the best way to explore the Parc national du Saguenay [19] and its fjord is to take a little cruise between Tadoussac and Chicoutimi.

Other informations

VIA Rail[20] offers train service along the St. Lawrence river, up the Saguenay and in the Gaspé Peninsula.

Within cities, public transit tends to be good by North American standards, though showing the signs of funding cuts in recent years.

"La route verte"[21] comprises 3,600 kilometres of bikeways linking the various regions of Québec.


  • Provincial Parks, [22]. Quebec has 22 provincial parks (known as National parks in French and in official English documentation). They vary from smallish, easily accessible preserves to massive tracts of remote near-wildnerness and everything in between.


Québec offers many activities including sports and outdoor recreation, cultural and natural sites, festivals and events.

Sliding in Québec city, Québec

Sites and attractions

Québec has a number of sites and attractions.

  • Casinos: Québec has three casinos: Montréal, Charlevoix and Lac-Leamy
Reford Gardens in Gaspésie, Québec
  • Cruises: Québec offers a variety of cruises, whether for whale watching, travelling the St. Lawrence River or touring the waterways.
  • Gardens: the Montréal Botanical Garden, the Insectarium, Reford Gardens and the international garden festival in Gaspésie are among Québec’s garden attractions.
  • Museums: Québec has over 400 museums.
  • Theme parks: La Ronde, the Old Port of Montréal and of Québec City, the Village québécois d’Antan, Granby Zoo
  • Religious heritage: St. Joseph’s Oratory, the Basilique Notre-Dame-de-Québec.

Tourism Routes

  • King’s Road (this historical 18th-century road connects Québec City and Montréal) [23]
  • New France Route (connecting Québec City and Cap-Tourmente, this 50-kilometre (30-mi.) route is a trip through time) [24]
  • Whale Route (Manicouagan and Duplessis) [25]
  • Navigators’ Route [26]
  • Wine Route (Eastern Townships) [27]
  • St. Lawrence Route (Charlevoix) [28]
  • Border Route (Bas-Saint-Laurent, the borders of New Brunswick and Maine) [29]
  • Agricultural tour (Southern Québec) [30]

Festivals and Events

Quebecers are known for their festive spirit and taste for celebration. This explains the close to 400 festivals held each year in Québec. [31]. Québec’s events are varied, from sports to cultural events and festivals, and attract visitors from around the world.

For all Québec events and festivals, click here.

Cultural events


  • Montréal International Jazz Festival [32]: With over 500 concerts, 350 of them presented free outdoors, the Montréal International Jazz Festival features the top Canadian and international ambassadors of jazz (end of June to beginning of July).
  • Just For Laughs Festival [33]: Montréal’s Just For Laughs Festival is the largest comedy festival in the world and attracts over 2 million spectators each year (July).
  • Francofolies de Montréal [34]: The largest Francophone music festival, the Francofolies de Montréal features over 1,000 artists, singing stars, musicians and emerging talent from some 20 countries around the world (end of July to beginning of August).
Just For Laughs Festival, Montréal, Québec
  • Les Concerts Loto-Québec de l'OSM dans les Parcs [35]: These three concerts by the Orchestre Symphonique de Montréal (OSM) are presented in Montréal parks in a family atmosphere (June and July).
  • L'International des Feux Loto-Québec [36]: The International des Feux Loto-Québec presented at La Ronde draws the largest pyrotechnics companies from around the world. Each show lasts 30 minutes, and the fireworks competition is the most prestigious and largest in the world (every Wednesday and Saturday evening from the end of June to the end of July).
  • International Flora/Le festival de jardins de Montréal [37]: The International Flora lets you visit the loveliest gardens on the festival site itself (end of June to beginning of September).
  • Festival international Nuits d'Afrique [38]: The international-calibre Festival Nuits d'Afrique features music from Africa, the West Indies and the Caribbean, along with workshops, an African market and exotic cuisine (month of July).

Québec City

  • Québec City Summer Festival [39]: For 40 years, the Québec City Summer Festival has been presenting hundreds of artists from around the world on ten sites around the capital, all easily accessible on foot (beginning of July).
  • Loto-Québec International Fireworks Competition [40]: This international musical fireworks competition takes place at the Montmorency Falls (end of July to beginning of August).
  • Plein Art Québec [41]: Over 100 craftspeople gather at the Plein Art Québec festival to exhibit Québec arts and craft creations in ceramics, textile and jewellery (beginning of August).
  • SAQ New France Festival [42]: A celebration of the history of the first Europeans to arrive in North America, the New France Festival presents over 1,000 artistic events every year in a journey back to the past in the heart of Old Québec (beginning of August).


  • Gatineau Hot Air Balloon Festival [43]: One of the most popular events in Eastern Canada, the Gatineau Hot Air Balloon Festival features hot air balloons and shows (beginning of September).
  • Casino du Lac-Leamy Sound of Light [44]: The Casino du Lac-Leamy Sound of Light is a competition that crowns the champion of the international circuit of musical fireworks competitions over water (end of July to beginning of August).

Sports events


  • Rogers Cup [45]: For tennis fans, the Rogers Cup is one of nine Association of Tennis Professionals tournaments on the Masters circuit (beginning of August).
  • The Presidents Cup [46]: A prestigious golf tournament, the Presidents Cup presents the best international players at The Royal Montréal Golf Club (end of September).
  • Grand Prix du Canada Festival on Crescent [47]: The largest F1 celebration in the world [ref. necessary] takes place on downtown Montréal’s Crescent Street (beginning of June).
  • Montréal Bike Fest [48]: A number of cycling activities take place during the Montréal Bike Fest including the Tour de l'île de Montréal, the largest gathering of cyclists in North America (end of May to beginning of June).

Four ways to discover Québec

Québec offers four different tourist experiences, each with a wide range of activities.

The streets of downtown Montréal, Québec

The City Experience

Montréal, Québec City and Gatineau are an integral part of Québec’s City Experience. Combining a European feel with the modernity of North America, Québec’s major cities charm visitors with their vibrancy, energy and warmth. The cultural life of these cities is well developed with many festivals, shows and museums, and they also offer high-quality hotels and restaurants.

Québec City

Each of the major cities offers a new facet of Québec to discover. The capital, Québec City, is the only fortified city in North America and has its own European cachet. The oldest Francophone city in North America, Québec City was named a World Heritage Site by UNESCO in 1985 and will celebrate its 400th anniversary in 2008.


The only Francophone metropolis in North America, Montréal is also the second largest Francophone city after Paris in terms of population.6 This major centre of 3.4 million inhabitants is a tapestry of cultures from the world over with its many neighbourhoods, including Chinatown, the Latin Quarter, the Gay Village, Little Italy, the Plateau Mont-Royal, the Quartier International and Old Montréal, just to name a few.7 Montréal [6] has a rich architectural heritage, along with many cultural activities, sports events and festivals.


Neighbouring Canada’s capital, Ottawa, Gatineau offers a broad mix of both urban and natural tourist attractions. It is host to many cultural and entertainment activities, including the Canadian Museum of Civilization and the Casino du Lac-Leamy. For those who love the outdoors, Gatineau Park has plenty of hiking, interpretation, cross-country skiing and cycling trails.


There are many different resort activities in Québec. Resort accommodations can be found in the countryside or deep in the forest. Here is a brief overview of resort activities in Québec:

  • Spas-Relais Santé: Resorts offering spa treatments for health and well-being. Personalized care such as massage therapy, algotherapy and hydrotherapy.
  • Hôtellerie Champêtre: A network of around 20 inns and hotels in Québec. These establishments have been selected for their personalized welcome, comfort and cuisine inspired by regional products.8
  • Mont-Tremblant Resort: Located in the Laurentides region, Mont-Tremblant Resort is a four-season resort offering activities for the whole family.
  • Bed and breakfasts: Bed and breakfasts are private residences that offer accommodations in up to five rooms and that serve breakfast [49].
  • Tourism routes: You can travel Québec by bike, on foot or by car along its tourism routes.
  • National parks: Québec has 27 protected national parks for exploring nature and enjoying the outdoors.

The St. Lawrence River

A whale’s tail in the St. Lawrence River, Québec

The St. Lawrence River is one of the largest rivers in the world and historically was the means of access to the centre of North America. Its 1,800 kilometres (1,120 mi.) are lined with old coastal villages, bird and marine mammal sanctuaries, lighthouses and verdant and rocky shores. The river is one of the largest navigable waterways in the world, and its estuary is known for its wide variety of marine mammals, birds and fish that live there year-round.

Upstream from Montréal to the tip of Gaspésie, a road borders the shores of the St. Lawrence River, allowing drivers to explore a coastline that changes from mountainous to rural to wilderness. At one point, visitors can explore the rich Saguenay Fjord.

The 1,600-kilometre (994-mi.) St. Lawrence River [50] transforms into a gulf that is more like an inland sea. The Gulf of St. Lawrence can be travelled by ferry, sailboat, kayak or cruise ship. Whale watching is very popular in Québec, particularly in Tadoussac.

There are also many islands and archipelagos [51] with rich flora and fauna scattered along the river. The Île d'Anticosti and the Îles-de-la-Madeleine have fascinating legends from sailors and fishermen who continue to live there.


Aboriginal tourism, Baie-James, Québec

For those who enjoy the outdoors and adventure [52], Québec’s wide open spaces have a great deal to offer. There are many outdoor sports, hunting and fishing activities visitors can enjoy:

  • Québec’s outfitters: Québec’s outfitters offer services and accommodations to hunters, anglers, families and those who enjoy the outdoors. They are located in the heart of the forest.
  • Aboriginal peoples: Visitors can discover the traditional way of life of the first inhabitants of the territory, the Aboriginals.
  • National parks: Québec has 27 protected national parks for exploring nature and enjoying the outdoors.
  • Aventure Écotourisme Québec: An association of professional adventure tourism and ecotourism operators in Québec.

St Jean-Baptiste

  • St. Jean-Baptiste (Fête Nationale), province-wide. June 24. The saint day of John the Baptist is also the national holiday of Quebec. With origins in France, the holiday took on major importance in the New World since it coincided with the summer gathering of fur traders. Many Quebecois celebrate the beginning of summer with backyard barbecues and parties at home, but there are also large public events in almost any town in the province, and huge public concerts in Montreal and Quebec City. A great day to see what makes Quebec so special.

Country routes

To truly get a feel for the “authentic” Québec, take one or several of the tourist routes that run alongside the St. Lawrence or criss-cross the countryside not far from the major axial highways. Clearly indicated by a series of blue signs, these routes are designed to showcase the cultural and natural treasures of their respective regions.


Québec cuisine
  • Québec’s cuisine [53] derives its rich flavour from a blend of influences. It has a solid French culinary base and is enriched by the contribution of the Amerindian peoples and the different cultural communities that have made the province their home. This blend of culinary cultures is what makes Québec cuisine what it is today. Many quality regional products are also used in its cuisine. Terroir products that grace Québec tables include ice cider, micro-brewed beer, wine and over 100 different varieties of cheese.
  • Another unique feature of Québec is the sugar shack [54], a family culinary tradition of eating maple products to the rhythms of Québec folklore. You can go as a group at the beginning of spring, during March and April. Most sugar bushes also sell maple products on site (maple butter, taffy and syrup) at very attractive prices. If this formula interests you, be sure to reserve in advance, and—in true tradition—go in as large a group as possible. It’s customary for several families to go together, but there’s no obligation to do so, particularly seeing as people rarely travel in groups of 50! Certain sugar bushes are open year round.
  • Others Québec culinary specialities include: shepherd’s pie, poutine, sugar pie, pouding chômeur (a sponge cake with a maple syrup sauce), maple syrup, baked beans, tourtière (a meat pie), cretons (a pork spread with onions and spices), etc.
  • Maple syrup (French: sirop d'érable) is the sticky, drippy giant on Quebec's culinary landscape. Boiled down from sap of the maple tree in sugar shacks (cabanes à sucre) around the province, it's got a more tangy flavor than the corn-based pancake syrup you may be used to. Different types of candies are obtained by pushing the boiling process further and are popular gifts during springtime. Also don't miss taffy-on-the-snow (tire sur neige).
  • Maple syrup is without a doubt the province’s speciality; Québec produces nearly 80% of the world’s supply. You will find it for sale pretty much everywhere.
  • In Quebec, the syrup is used for more than just pancakes, though. You can find it as a glaze for pork and beef, mixed in with baked beans (fèves au lard), or in desserts like pouding chômeur ("welfare cake") or tarte au sucre (sugar pie). It's also made into loose sugar and candies. Syrup is on sale practically anywhere you want to go, but if you really want to take some home, stop into a farmer's market or a grocery store rather than a tourist shop. You can get the same high-quality syrup as at the souvenir stand for about half the price.
A mouth-wateringly delicious-looking plate of poutine
  • No visit to Quebec is complete without at least one plate of poutine. This unique dish is a plate of French fries, drowned in gravy, and topped with chewy white cheddar cheese curds . There are variations on the theme -- adding chicken, beef, vegetables or sausage, or replacing the gravy with tomato meat sauce (poutine italienne). Poutine can be found in practically any fast-food chain restaurant in Quebec, but higher-quality fare can be found at more specialized poutine shops. Local restaurant chains are your best bet. One great spot for trying out poutine is Ashton (in the Québec City area), where, in January only, you will get a discount based on the outdoor temperature (the colder it is outside, the cheaper the poutine!). The origin of poutine is still under debate, but it was first served in Drummondville in 1964, at the Roy Jucep restaurant owned by Mr. Roy. Since then, the surrounding areas have been trying to lay claim to its creation.
  • Befitting the province's sub-arctic climate, Quebecois cuisine favors rich, hot foods with more calories than you want to know about. Tourtière du Lac-Saint-Jean for instance is a deep-dish pie, typically from the Saguenay-Lac-St-Jean region, made of various meats (usually beef and pork, often including game, cut into small cubes) and diced potatoes, baked together in a flakey pastry shell. It's comfort food for a Quebecois -- just like Maman used to make.


Shopping in the Petit Champlain district of Old Québec in Québec City
  • Prices are marked without tax (unless otherwise indicated). At the cash, a 6% goods and services tax (GST – federal tax) and a 7.5% provincial sales tax (QST), i.e. 13.95%, will be added to the marked price. Certain items are not taxed at the same rate. This is the case with most foods, which are best bought in quantities of six when sold individually (otherwise, they are considered immediate consumption and taxed).
  • Since April 2007, tourists can no longer obtain reimbursement of the QST.
  • Tipping: Like elsewhere in North America, servers in restaurants and bars earn only a modest salary. This is why tipping is systematic when ordering in bars or restaurants (tipping does not apply to take-out food). A tip should be about 15% of the pre-tax price. Tips also apply to taxis, drinking establishments, restaurants and hair salons.
  • Alcohol and tobacco: Alcoholic drinks and cigarettes are subject to specific taxes. Wines and spirits are particularly expensive: up to three times the European price for French wine, for instance (and 50% more when ordering a bottle of wine in a restaurant, hence the appeal of the “bring your own wine” formula). It is advisable to buy local wines, which are very comparable to French wines and less expensive. This enables you to support local products, which need it given the small market. Cigarettes cost between $7 and $9.50 a pack (a pack contains 25 cigarettes). Canadian cigarettes have quite a different taste than U.S. or French brands. Keep in mind, though, that since May 31, 2006, smoking is prohibited in all public places in Québec, including bars, restaurants and theatres.


Legal drinking age in Quebec is 18.

Quebecers’ favourite alcohol is beer given the high taxes on wine. The province boasts several very good microbreweries. Here is a list of the best brew pubs in Québec by region. In Montréal, there is Dieu du Ciel!, L’Amère à Boire, Le Cheval Blanc and Brutopia. In Québec City, there is La Barberie and L'Inox. One of the best is Le Broumont in Bromont, near the foot of the ski hill. If you visit Sherbrooke, be sure to stop in at the Mare au Diable. In the Mauricie region, there is Le trou du Diable (Shawinigan) and Gambrinus (Trois-Rivières). For anyone wishing to visit the stunning Charlevoix region, there is the Charlevoix microbrewery in Baie St-Paul. Liquor and wine are sold mainly at Société des alcools du Québec (SAQ) stores, but beer and wine (often of a lesser quality) can also be found at supermarkets and convenience stores. In the country, good quality wine and liquor can be found at the grocery store. The sale of alcohol is prohibited after 11:00 p.m. at convenience stores and supermarkets, and may not be sold to anyone under the age of 18. Bars are open until 3:00 a.m. (except in Gatineau where they close at 2:00 a.m. to avoid an influx of partiers when the bars close in Ottawa).

Beer and a so-so selection of wine are available at most grocery stores and depanneurs (corner markets), but by law distilled spirits are only available at provincial stores called the SAQ (pronounced "ess-ay-cue" or "sack"). The SAQ also has a higher-quality selection of wine, mostly European, Australian, or South American-- there's a peculiar blind spot for California vintages, though British Columbian wines are plentiful, unlike in Ontario's LCBO stores. Although closing time in bars is 3AM, most SAQs close between 6 and 8PM, and sales of other alcohol are banned after 11PM.

Quebec is blessed with some of the finest beers on the North American continent. As in the rest of Canada, they are higher-proof than in the US; alcohol content starts around 5-6% but 8-12% is not unusual. Americans should check labels and drink cautiously to gauge their own tolerance.


Auberge du Vieux-Québec, Québec City

With over 5,800 establishments that hold official lodging certificates, Québec offers choices for any budget for those seeking accommodations for the night, from youth hostels to five-star hotels. Establishments are classified using a stars and sun system to help visitors choose their accommodations [55]. Possibilities include:

  • Hotels
  • Bed and breakfasts
  • Tourist homes
  • Wilderness lodges
  • Resorts
  • Youth hostels
  • Educational institutions
  • Hospitality villages
  • Campgrounds
  • Outfitting operations
  • In Québec, bed and breakfasts or gîte du passant (name reserved for bed and breakfasts that are part of the Agricotours organization) [18] are an excellent way to enjoy a comfortable stay complete with the friendly hospitality characteristic of this province. In the high season, it’s wise to reserve in the morning for accommodations later that same day. The tourist offices are very efficient and will provide you with a list of addresses, and will even phone for you if you wish. This formula, typically less expensive than a hotel, is a great opportunity for meeting people and learning about life in Québec.
  • Lots of accommodations are available for students. Around the universities are student residences and/or private homes that rent out rooms on a monthly basis. Compared to France, lodging in Québec is very affordable.

Stay safe

Safety is really not an issue in Quebec, with the exception of a few "bad" neighborhoods of Montreal.


On paper, Quebec has an excellent autoroute (freeway) system. All of the province's major cities are connected by autoroute. However, in practice, most of the autoroutes may be poorly maintained. This is especially true in the Montreal area. Roads in general are not as well maintained as they may be in the United States or in Ontario.

Though not as aggressive as many out-of-province visitors say they are, Quebec drivers are certainly not calm. Posted speed limits are rarely obeyed, as police will only hand out fines to extremely dangerous speeders. If you are used to driving at a slower pace, you may find angry drivers honking at you for clogging traffic. Be aware that turning right on a red light is illegal on the whole Montreal island, and police will not hesitate to hand you a ticket if you are caught.


  • Quebecers are usually very respectful of their visitors and expect the same in return.
  • Generally, expressing yourself in French is considered by Quebecers as a sign of respect and is much appreciated, even though people working in the tourism industry often speak several languages.
  • Québec’s language is key to the province’s cultural identity, and its inhabitants battled for several centuries to preserve it against the odds. Quebecers have heard it all when it comes to making fun of their linguistic particularities, so it’s best to avoid this. In Québec, "French from France" isn’t "real French"; on the contrary, it is associated with a foreign accent. Quebecers view it as an insult to be told they don’t speak "comprehensible" French. Avoid this.
  • Like elsewhere in North America, an informal rule dictates that a guest in a Québec home help out with a few minor domestic chores during their stay. Helping clear the dinner table would be a good start.
  • Like in several Canadian provinces, it is officially prohibited to smoke inside public buildings, including restaurants, bars and theatres. It is also forbidden to smoke within a nine-metre (30-foot) perimeter of the doors to public buildings (there is often a visible line delineating this perimeter in front of hospitals, CLSCs, etc.) and it is forbidden to smoke anywhere on school property.

Do not become flustered if you are unable to find someone who speaks English right away. Insisting on the use of English is likely to ruffle some feathers. It is better to make an effort to speak in French, even if it is only a few words. If your French language skill is poor, many listeners will switch to English with varying degrees of compassion (or ridicule!).

The issue of sovereignty is an extremely complicated and emotional issue that is almost sure to cause hard feelings if you bring it up. Also, note that even residents who aren't souverainistes seriously speak of Quebec as a nation with national parks, national assembly, and national capital. To further complicate matters, there are innocuous local translations for the word "national(e)" that do not contemplate a sovereign nation-state, such as the Canadian Parliament's acknowledgment of a Quebecois nation. The discussion of Quebecois politics is therefore best left to Quebecois and Canadians.

Although Quebec is part of Canada, you'll see few maple leaf flags, and the French media doesn't emphasize connections with the ROC ("Rest of Canada"). Some Quebeckers consider the display of the Canadian flag to be an inflammatory symbol of Canadian "dominance"; others see displays of the Quebec flag as overzealous ethnic nationalism. Phrases like here in Canada or as a Canadian may make your conversational partner ill at ease.

Note also that Quebec is not France. Jokes about French stereotypes (Jerry Lewis, poor hygiene, eating frogs' legs, and especially "surrendering": Americans making such a comment are likely to be gently reminded that their country was still neutral when Quebecers, like other Canadians, had already been fighting Germany for two years) will bring puzzled stares, or at best show that you have no idea which continent you're on. And comparing Quebecois culture and language unfavorably to France's is probably not a path to go down, either. Although Quebec and France have many ties, the Quebecois typically regard themselves as a distinct culture quite separate from the country that "abandoned" them three centuries ago. The cultures are so divergent that, in extreme cases, Québécois and Français speaking French to one another will not be mutually intelligible due to linguistic differences. Visitors from France are advised to avoid using overly-familiar terms to refer to a kinship between themselves and a Quebecois where none may exist; the term "p'ti cousin" (little cousin) can be particularly inflammatory.

Quebecers, particularly in the Montreal area, are a laid-back people with a sense of humour. It isn't uncommon for English and French to insult and slur each other in a joking manner. Tourists should not try to join in on this. Both sides of the nationalist/independence debate see it as their fight and theirs alone.

Finally, as with most of Canada, Quebec is not the United States. People north of the border will bristle at the suggestion that the two countries are "practically the same" and it may offend some south of the border as well.


Quebecers are very approachable and are usually happy to be able to provide information and chat.

Anyone who enjoys a bit of history or genealogy could ask a Quebecer about their ancestry. They might have the pleasure of watching their host pull out letters or travel diaries from their immigrant relatives who first set foot on American soil.

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